One of the most common terms heard in any marketing training or strategy is the notion of the “ideal client.” Discovering this essential part of your business is powerful yet often overlooked exercise.
Who is this for?
If you want more quality leads for your business, this is a must read. It even applies to those experienced business owners that are getting referrals right now. Take this in and see how you can refine your process of defining your ideal client.
Let’s start with a definition of “ideal client”.
The ideal client is the description and understanding of who is BEST for your services or products. I highlight the term “best” here because it is the top of the pyramid for you. And this is where most people struggle. They have the notion that they CAN serve everyone equally well. This thinking is just not true. It is a myth, and it hurts you.
[spp-tweet tweet=”“You can’t be all things to all people.” “]
This quote is most referred to quote from hundreds of people interviewed on my podcast and in discussions about success. Let it sink in and process what it means to you.
The value of knowing the “ideal client” for you is multi-pronged. First, it is about who you are inspired to work with (not just those that have the money). Second, it is about who you can work with to solve their problems. Third, it is understanding who appreciates your products and services. In other words, it is about who gets the highest value for your services.
Do you know who gets the highest value from your services?
Let me share with you a story from a client of mine that is on the extreme side of this, but it helps to point out the value of the ideal client. His name is Jason Swenk. Jason spent 18 months blogging to attract clients. He wrote good content; however when I looked at what he was writing it was pretty generic. I asked him who it was for, and he said “small business owners”.
Well, one of my favorite sayings is “small business is not a target market.” Small business is a broad term to say…I will do business with anyone that will do business with me.
In just a few conversations, Jason realized that his ideal client was a digital agency owner that wanted to reach $1m in sales. Jason narrowed his focus to the client that inspired him the most; he was uniquely qualified to help, and that would appreciate his support. Jason and I got there quickly on this because of my experience with this process and my understanding of Jason’s experience.
Now Jason has an extremely strong business serving his ideal client. In the last year, he has even more narrowly defined his ideal client because of his active work to focus on the exact client that gets the most value from his services and products. Jason has five revenue streams and has built a community of more than 10,000 people that want to know what he knows.
This story might seem like a simple one. It is one that everyone can learn from too. Jason had a fear of being too narrow and a fear of missing out on potential clients that keep him writing to the small business market. That is all too common. Jason overcame this fear by taking action with his ideal client through the process I showed him. He took each part and validated his assumptions. Then he continued to take action to build a business serving those ideal clients that he was meant to serve.
The process of finding your ideal client is not the easiest to do. In fact, it is quite hard. It is not the process (step-by-step) that is so hard. It is the limiting beliefs that you have to overcome. There is common thinking I’m so good at what I do that I can help everyone one. This kind of thinking is a trap. The trap is thinking that you are here to serve everyone that needs your offer.
Let me say this clearly and plainly.
You are not here to serve those that NEED what you have.
You are here to serve those that WANT what you have.
When you realize this for yourself, you will make finding your ideal clients much easier. In fact, it is a basis of having a growing and predictable business. Finding the ones that WANT what you have been so much easier and rewarding than trying to convince others to buy what they need.
Referrals – We Must Talk About Referrals
You also might not think you need this because you get lots of referrals. Referrals are freaking fantastic. Referrals are a great sign that you are good at what you do. However, the problem with referrals is you waited for them to come in. Referrals are a reactive form of business development. Every client I have ever had with an established business is getting referrals.
You are not too big for the process of finding your ideal client. Even the most established businesses that want to do business with the recognizable brands benefit from finding their ideal client. The process of finding your ideal client is the basis for you building a predictable and growing business that CREATES new clients and does not wait for referrals.
Mistakes in Finding Your Ideal Client
1) Assuming I Am Narrow Enough
Discovering your ideal client is a process of segmenting and prioritizing the prospects that are best for you. Many business owners stop with the first level of focus. This part is what many people do because they have gotten to a place where it seems narrow. When it “seems” narrow you likely have not gone far enough.
You have to zero into that ideal client. It is usually has two levels of depth. Do you remember in Jason’s example above where he discover that he worked with Digital agencies (level 1) and those that wanted to reach $1m in sales (level 2)?
What if Jason stopped at just “digital marketing agencies”? Well, first he would have been narrowing into level 1. However, it is nearly impossible to be the expert and create world class positioning for everyone that is a digital marketing agency. The ones that are just getting started in business and those have 400 employees think about different issues and aspire to achieve different goals. And all the levels in between are also facing different challenges and opportunities. Jason would have struggled to build his business as fast as he did if he didn’t take it two levels deep.
Extra Wisdom: Once you get momentum in one segment of your market, it will help you move into other segments. It is similar to the way Facebook grew their business. It all started in one place (Harvard University) and grew and grew. Your business can work the same way.
Don’t assume you have it narrow enough. Keep going to 2 levels of specificity and clarity.
Keep in mind that the factors that determine your ideal client are best when they are labels used by your ideal clients. I have a free training here on this if you want to know more.
2) Not Validating with Real People
Researching and exploring your ideal client usually starts with what I call a “coffee shop exercise”. This is a way of saying that you can sit in a coffee shop and think about your ideal client. You can Google it. You learn by reading about your market. You can start here, but you must go beyond the coffee shop to make this work.
In all the thousands of people that I have talked to and worked with on finding their ideal clients they had to talk to real people. It is through the conversations that you discover what is going on with these people. If you don’t talk to them, you are assuming what is going on.
DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.
When you talk to those people that you want to serve with your products and services you are validating your offers. You are validating your positioning.
One key benefit to the conversations here is to uncover the LANGUAGE they use. You can take that language and use it in your website copy, blogs, speeches, etc. This is powerful and rarely implemented.
If you are having trouble finding people to talk to validate your offer, you might not have an accessible market. You must be able to find people that you want to serve (I know this is obvious, but worth mentioning).
Keep in mind that if you find one person in your network, then they can connect you to others similar to them. People likely know their peers and can introduce you to others if you are truly helpful to them through these conversations.
Your goal in these conversations is not to sell them what you have…it is to validate your understanding of the real problem and how they think about solving it.
3) Not Getting to the Profitable Niche
When you find your ideal client, you are really on the journey to finding what I call the “Profitable Niche”. This is the level 2 work, and it is an essential part of your discovery process.
The other side of this is just finding the ideal client that you are passionate about serving. You can get lucky but in business, we don’t survive on HOPE and LUCK. We want to know for sure. You can’t just hope to find the ideal clients that are going to appreciate your services and products.
In my experience, you want to find the ideal clients that value what you do and want to solve the problems you address. Remember your aim is to find those that WANT what you have to offer.
I usually describe this as finding your target market. This is the outside of the bullseye. I like to go to level 1 and find the “niche” which is the segment of the market that wants what you have. Then I take my clients to level 2 which is the “profitable niche”. This is the group of people that get the highest value from what you offer.
Don’t stop until you have had conversations with people inside your view of your ideal client that are your profitable niche. Keep working this until you find them and validate your assumptions.
The journey may not be easy because you have to let go of the notion of serving everyone. You have to decide who really inspires you and who you can serve. You must also do the work to find the ones that get the highest value from what you do.
The journey to finding your ideal client can frustrate you. It is mostly in the thinking “I know better” and skipping over it. This thinking keeps people from doing the work.
My point here is to share my experience and help you find the people you are here to serve.
Thought leadership is about showing up with the right message to the right person at the right time. It is about relevancy, value and trust. Deciding to be a thought leader in your market means that you are willing to put your point-of-view (POV) out there on the platforms where your audience hangs out.
Let me share with your an example of using Facebook’s power of paid placements.
Think for a moment about getting a referral from a client. YEAHHH! We love referrals. That client is likely going to look into you by visiting your website. They might click around on a few pages and even watch a video. They are intrigued.
Before they even get a chance to meet you, a short video shows up on their Facebook timeline that gives them another perspective of you. As they watch the video and it addresses a pain they have right now.
They are beginning to add to the trust that they already had. Now every two or three days between the introduction and the first meeting your videos show to give them even more touch points with your brand.
As they watch these videos, they can visit the website again or just smile knowing that you “get them.” Either way you connected with them with your message (aka positioning yourself as a thought leader).
Ok, that story may sound like crazy stalking kind of stuff, but it is not really anything like that. It is a feature of the Facebook ad platform. It gives you the power to bring visitors back to your message with the frequency and trust (when you do it right), you begin to connect with the prospects at deeper levels.
There are 4 important parts to thought leadership you must understand if you want it to work for you.
1. The Right Person
The right person means you have a clear understanding of that person (the prospect). You might even know them better than they know themselves because of the experience with others just like them. This is another way to say you are focused on a specific audience instead trying to cast a wide net to see what you can catch.
2. The Right Message
Delivering the right message to them allows you to connect emotionally and logically. If you have a generic and non-specific message you will likely lose them. Your ability to dive deep into their own thinking to their pains, challenges, opportunities and aspirations is what separates you from the others in the market. Your message connects directly to the person’s journey so that they receive it with a single thought “he gets me”.
When you have the right person and the right message, it is perceived to have something of value. It is perceived to address a concern they have been stressing over. Value is in the eye of the beholder which means you have to know them so well that your thought leadership is perceived as useful and relevant to them. I add this to stress the importance of this being of real value to those that you want to connect with. Don’t assume it is valuable…be sure by your research and testing your messages with those right people. There is not a substitution for having conversations with your audience to refine your messages. Most people are not willing to do this enough and this causes a struggle in finding the “market to message” match.
4. The Right Timing
There was an old adage that someone must be exposed to your brand message 7 times to get their attention. This is the effective frequency of your message. It is also referred to as the Rule of 7.
Do you know these slogans?
- Got milk?
(used for 21 years, starting in 1993)
- Just do it.
(used for over 26 years, starting in 1988)
- What happens here, stays here.
(used for 10 over years, starting in 2004)
- Tastes great, less filling.
(used since the 1970s)
These have been used for decades to imprint a message to the audience. When you read them, you can probably picture the brand that produced them, right?
What if you had that level of consistency in your market? You would likely be thought of as a leader just because of the longevity.
The First Step in being a Thought Leader
You must know your ideal client to be a thought leader. Your ideal client is that one client that if you have two dozen of them they would radically change your ability to make money, create systems and even position yourself as a leader in your market to all the others like your ideal client.
Facebook is a powerful platform for thought leadership because of its ability to be a vehicle for your images, text, and videos. Facebook allows you to target the exact people you want to see the ad and when you want them to see it. Here is an interview I did with Valerie Shoopman on my podcast Leaders in the Trenches. Podcast Episode 152 Lead Generation with Facebook Ads.
Additional resources that will help you with your journey to being a thought leader or an authority in your market.
Here is a podcast I did about being an authority that will help you in your journey to thought leadership. http://leadersinthetrenches.com/105-authority-with-gene-hammett/